Father and Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, His Beatitude Sviatoslav, on numerous requests from the bishops of the Church, explained how to serve Holy Week’s and Easter services during the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is important to note that the UGCC is a global Church that is present on all continents. Therefore, the advice of the Head of the UGCC is universal. Based on these tips, bishops in their eparchies and exarchates should help priests to form the norms of behaviour in these extraordinary circumstances.
First of all, if during the Holy Week and the Feast of the Resurrection of Christ, in our countries of residence the quarantine will continue, then the Easter services should be held in the same way as we prayed on the Sundays of Lent, that is now. The Primate believes that the faithful should be encouraged to make the most of online Liturgies, and broadcasts should be provided by the clergy from temples and cathedrals.
Second, the Holy Week’s and Easter Liturgies throughout the Catholic Church will be served without the participation of the faithful, for security purposes, in order to reduce contact between people and not to spread viruses.
Third, on Holy Thursday this year, do not perform the washing of feet.
Fourth, do not make any processions on Good Friday, whether in or outside the church. The Plashchanytsia can be taken from the sanctuary directly to the tomb of the Lord. Set a restriction in front of the Plashchanytsia so that the faithful will not be able to kiss it. His Beatitude Sviatoslav advises to arrange access to the shroud so that people do not gather in the temple beyond the permissible number of persons.
Fifth – to serve Easter Liturgy, if possible, on the outside. Do not make processions – either in the church or around the church. If the bishops consider it possible, according to the sanitary rules of a particular country, to serve inside the church, then only the clergy and singers should be in it. Everyone else should stay outside. The people should be given the opportunity to participate in worship by listening to it through loudspeakers or viewing it on screens. People should be asked not to crowd, but to stay within the established sanitary standards. However, if the quarantine requires, one should participate in worship through broadcasts while staying at home.
The sixth – to consecrate the willow branches on Verbna Nedilya (Palm Sunday), and to bless Easter Breads (Paska) and Easter food only outside. At the same time, to ask the faithful not to accumulate above the permitted norm of distance between themselves. It is possible to consecrate the food on Easter Saturday for as long as it is required.
Also, the Head of the Church emphasizes that the elderly, those whose family members have signs of respiratory disease, as well as those who are in isolation should not bring Easter baskets to the church. They should be informed that Easter baskets will also be sanctified through online broadcasts. “The example of this is the Pope, who blesses people on St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican and this blessing extends to those who connect with him through radio and television,” assures His Beatitude Sviatoslav. You also should not perform hajivky on the church grounds, or organize other festivities so as not to bring people together.
The UGCC Department for Information